Preface:  Variation Forms


Dr. William Renwick


Download the Preface PDF






Variation Form has proven to be a more challenging, illusive, and rewarding topic than I could have imagined when work on this issue began.  On the surface, the notion of Theme and Variations seems pedantic and shallow when placed beside its loftier companions, sonata form, fugue and the like.  However, each author has brought something fresh to the notion of variation form.  In the midst of this process, we have refined and perhaps even re-defined our notions of the central yet adaptable function of variations, as not only a basic and systematic method of developing musical ideas, but also as a broad and malleable approach to composition in general.  I am delighted that the topics have embraced not only the classics such as Mozart and Paganini, and Willan, but also such varied styles as Be-bop, raga, folk-music, minimalism, jazz improvisation, boogie-woogie and the atonal repertoire. 


Of course variation has always played an important part in musical form, but this collection of essays brings to the fore its pervasive and diverse role in musical thinking.  Variation form has proven to be fundamental to musical thought in the broadest and deepest terms, and has illuminated the construction and content of a surprisingly broad range of styles and genres.


Enjoy Volume IV of the McMaster Music Analysis Colloquium.